Session 1/3

Revelation chapter 16:3-7

Further transcripts

And the second poured out his bowl on the sea; and it became blood, as of a dead man; and every living soul died in the sea.

                                                                         Verse 3

An interesting point is that in verses 3 to 6 the sea and the rivers become blood, speaking of death. Death means death in its moral character that is to say there is no longer any connection with God. The interesting point is that the men of the world think that they can live without God. But here it is presented as a judgement and it is the most terrible things, a most awful situation: to be here in this world without God.

The expression 'pouring out' suggests that there it is a deliberate action and not something accidental and I think that we need to bear this in mind in regard of the execution of judgement that it's deliberate.

Further to what you were saying about the term 'pouring out ', it may be significant that the New Translation does not have the word 'angel' in verses 3, 4, 8, etc. It uses 'the first', 'the second', 'the third' throughout in every case which would seem that the stress is very much on the actual pouring out, not on the angel.

And the third poured out his bowl on the rivers, and [on] the fountains of waters; and they became blood.

                                                                                                    Verse 4

If we are free to move on to verse 4 it becomes a very radical study to see the contrast between what is the portion of those who are the subjects of mercy and the portion of those who are the subjects of judgement. For most of us, when we think of rivers Scriptures may come to mind such as 'there is a stream in the city of God, a river in the city of God, the streams whereof make glad the city of cur God'. The river in Revelation 22 is 'clear as crystal'. These Scriptures speak of refreshment which is the portion of the children of God. Fountains might bring to mind such Scriptures as John 4, the spiritual picture of 'fountain of waters springing up into everlasting life', wonderful thoughts. But when we consider this verse we see the awful contrast with those who are the subjects of judgement and I think that this matter of contrast is something that will come out quite frequently in our studies.

There is a reference in Exodus 32:20, where you get again this matter of water in connection with the golden calf. You remember how Moses took the calf that they had made and burned it to powder and strewed it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it. It seems to be suggestive of that which should have been for the refreshment of the people of God here becomes a matter of judgement. Then they have to drink it: they have to partake of that which they thought would be a source of pleasure and taste the bitterness of it. And how many examples we have seen of this. Sometimes we see people who have given themselves over to a life of unrestrained pleasure and they end in a suicide's grave. This is a story that is pretty often repeated: men misguided by Satan go in for something, climb to the top and then find there is nothing at the top. And I think this picture rather graphically points out that men may go in for things and find at the end that they are as bitter as gall, even in this life not to speak of the judgement that is in store.

Rivers as has been said usually speak of refreshment and blessing in the Scriptures. God has planted in His creation of course all the things necessary for man's blessing. I was thinking of that which we see in the creation story or early afterwards: man and woman, the wonderful way in which man is a complement to the woman and vice versa, family, marriage, the order of things in the family. All these things are sources of blessing to man and these very things have become a source of trouble and strife and anguish to mankind; and it will be even more so when this beast appears on the scene.

In Genesis 2 there were four rivers in connection with four lands and we have also in John 7 the river flowing out the belly, a reference to the Holy Spirit. But what is impressive is that all that now is blood, is dead. So all the sources of thought, all the source of blessing, all the sources of new ideas, of new tendency, everything is dead, there is no longer anything good. What an impressive result of the condition, of the situation of the present world.

Normally a river flows in its dams and that would suggest an ordered state of affairs. Now this judgement is connected with ordered society.

Specifically, it would be man's religion, man's social order, man's economic order and that sort of thing.

Of course the river is a living thing and it moves and it is never in the same channel exactly and you get this in the history of man where you have got these changing trends and movements and activities. So it seems that sort of thing is touched as well, and these are things which influence men. But if there was ever an influence for good we see that all these turn to death because man has put to death the One Who could offer them the water of life, in John 4. Now they are reaping precisely the consequence of such an act and there is now a complete repudiation of the Gospel. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap", there is precision in the judgement, it is not indiscriminate, it exactly meets the case.

Could it be that rivers point to what we might simply call civilisation? man has been always seeking to improve and I suppose this would begin with a city, a common attempt of shutting God out. The fountains seem rather to point to what is spiritual, that which would spring up to God. But so far as man is concerned, any restraint upon his will is certainly not welcomed. I think you get this markedly in Psalm 2, "The kings of the earth set themselves", you remember, "Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their cords from us." Any restraint upon man's desire for pleasure is not welcomed and I think this is beautifully exemplified in the French Revolution (if our French brethren will allow us to refer to this), liberty, equality and fraternity. They sought to break the bonds asunder but you see what an awful confusion it has made, and what distress and sadness came in the wake of the revolution.

And I heard the angel of the waters saying, Thou art rightous, who art and wast, the holy one, that thou hast judged so; for they have poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; they are worthy.                         Verses 5 and 6

I was considering the reference in verse 5 to the angel of the waters and linking that back to verse 4. These waters, the rivers and waters, were good things. At least they were under the influence of an angel, but man has gradually worked them over to his own way with the result that they have poured out the blood of prophets. Therefore, the angel who was controlling these things for the benefit of man, can say: 'Well, get what you deserve. You have corrupted these very good things that God has given'. Naturally speaking, practically every country in the world depends on its rivers for its blessing. Therefore, I think that the angel is a beneficence of God, looking after these things for the benefit of man generally. But man has turned against God and he has corrupted [the revelation of] God and he's gone so far as to persecute the saints and prophets and the angel is saying 'Well, you get what you deserve'. We know that God is not vindictive and I think there is such a thing as the righteous wrath of God which must be honoured.

There are two expressions used of God in this passage, righteous and holy and those are the principles that govern the execution of the judgement.

Verse 5 is one of the many verses which tell us about the angel contemplating the character of God in view of that which they see among the men on the earth. We read of the angels in 1.Corinthians 11 in relation to the head covering of the woman. We have that in Ephesians 3, of the assembly, and here with His judgement.

I have been interested in this expression "They are worthy". You get the word worthy seven times in Revelation. The other six are all in connection with response to God but this is one where those who are the subjects of judgement, they are worthy of it. This is a very important principle in Psalm 51 "That Thou mayest be justified when Thou speakest and be clear when Thou judgest". It would seem that here we have the assessment of the angel of the waters, that they are worthy of what they are getting and I think this is quite an interesting contrast to the other six references which all speak of the worthy One that we delight to worship.

As to the angel of the waters one might just refer to chapter 7:1, where we see four angels standing upon the four corners of the earth, holding fast the four winds of the earth. "That no wind might blow upon the earth, nor upon the sea, nor upon any tree". One might also refer to Daniel 10: there, Michael speaks to Daniel and says that the prince of Persia had withstood him. We are not wrong in assuming that this prince of Persia is not the literal king of Persia, but an angel which shows that God has many hierarchies of angels of which we read in the New Testament. They are different spiritual beings which have power above men and have been assigned different tasks. Here, we read about the angel of the waters. It is clear from what has been said that it is not here a literal angel or the literal waters but the angel which God has chosen, to whom God has assigned the responsibility for the actual welfare of man. This might throw some light on this expression 'the angel of the waters'.

I think that he is called the angel of the waters because he brings the judgement on these rivers and waters. We could say in verse 2 that the first one is the angel of the earth. In verse 3, the second one is the angel of the sea and then in verse 4 the angel of waters. But the first two are not mentioned and a brother has explained why, because what matters here is not so much the person of the angel but the judgement. But here in verse 4 this third angel has to say something and therefore he is designated as the angel of the waters. He says that the blood of the saints and righteous should be taken revenge for and then in verse 7 the altar will speak "True and righteous are Thy judgements".

And I heard the altar saying, Yea, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous [are] thy judgments. 

                                           Verse 7

This statement is connected with the souls below the altar crying for vengeance (chapter 6, verse 9) and this makes clear that this is a dispensation which is different from ours now. In the period of grace believers do not ask for revenge, but the saints who died in the tribulation period they will ask for revenge and this is according to God's mind and here we see God's answer to this cry.

Here it is the altar which is speaking. In chapter 6, reference is made to the souls under the altar. Here, I understand, it is more connected with requirement due to the sacrifice which are upon the altar, brethren and believers, those who have been killed. But the result is the same, there is need for revenge and for judgement.

Can we turn back to chapter 8:5, where we read that the angel "took the censer, and filled it from the fire of the altar, and cast it on the earth". We have two altars in Revelation, the brazen altar which seems to be in question here and the golden altar which is before the throne of God. But if we think of the symbolical meaning of this brazen altar in the Old Testament we see that it is the place where the holy judgement of God was executed on His only begotten Son, on His own beloved Son. When it says here that God is righteous we realise that the same measure of holiness which was applied in judging sin in the only Sinless One is manifested in the judgements on the earth. Therefore, the voice comes from this same altar, which is a symbolical expression. There will not be a literal altar in heaven, but our thoughts are directed to the greatest public judgement of God in His own Son. This is the measure and the standard of His judgement eve

It would seem that there is a progression in regard to these judgements. First of all we listen to the angel but now we find this unique expression: the altar itself speaks. We are under the impression that it is a voice from a very high level showing that this judgement is perfectly just.

The King James Version suggests that it is an angel that spoke but the New Translation brings the force of it more into focus. It is a question of what God did in holiness and in righteousness in regard of Christ when He was made sin. That is the force of the wording, 'the altar speaks'.

It is clear that the altar is the place of sacrifice. We immediately think of the sacrifice of our blessed Lord made on the altar. This is to us of course wonderful blessing. The voice that comes from that altar to us is His blessing. But this is a different voice: it is a voice about judgement or acquiescence or agreement with the judgement of God. That which speaks to us of blessing, speaks to the world - to those that have not accepted this sacrifice - of judgement. They are murderers of God's Son. As we read that Abel's blood called for judgement from the ground but to us the Lord's blood speaks of better things than that. Nevertheless Abel's blood was crying from the ground for judgement and it seems to me that the altar also cries for judgement upon those who have not taken that blood as their shelter. Now that blood speaks of judgement, they are guilty of the terrible crime of murder of God's Son.

Would we be right in saying that the verse here suggests that God sees His saints as burnt offerings, offered up to Him? It is interesting that the altar gives a witness which is the second witness to the angel of the waters and vindicates God's righteous judgements. So we have something established by the mouth of two witnesses here.

I noticed the verse speaks about the shed blood of saints and prophets. I wonder whether we could identify these. I am not going to offer a suggestion as to their identification but I notice that the saints seem to be the generality, the ordinary, the not so prominent ones who have suffered and been mistreated. The prophets are those that have taken a more prominent place in testimony. But both alike are mistreated and killed but their suffering leads to their vindication by a righteous judgement against their tormentors but it also turns out to be for their own blessing. A verse which seems to suggest this is in Revelation 11:18 where it says "Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets and to the saints and them that fear Thy Name". And so we have these saints and prophets not prepared to go with the tide of infidelity. They are not prepared to be carried along by the stream of some movement, whatever it is. They have gone against the stream. And that poses for us the question which is our direction, are we going along, in one direction with the world which is ripening for judgement? Are we giving ourselves in alliance with those that murder God's saints and God's prophets or are we distinct from them in every way?

I was going to say something about the difference between prophets and saints. I have the impression that in the saints we always see their lives and in the prophets we always see their testimony. Both are of course a reproach to the people of this world. There is the reproach where they see the lives of saints who practise the commandments of God in their everyday lives and of course there is also the reproach in what is being preached, even in what is being written. And they reject both, the prophets because of their teaching and the saints because of their lives. And I think that a Christian who really decides to live up to the Lord's commands, he is a constant reproach to his neighbours. If we really want to be faithful to the Lord and live up to His standards we cannot hope to be respected and liked by the people who do not believe in the Lord Jesus.

I want to suggest another perspective as to this matter of saints and prophets. I believe that saints means holy ones. The prophet seems to have the function of restoring the people to what God has started, when there is departure. Satan feels offended because the saints live according to God. And if there are those who seek to bring the saints back to that which is right according to God, he is offended as well.

It is very appropriate that the prophets are mentioned here in the context where the fountains and springs are considered. Fountains and rivers are not exactly the same. Fountains are the origins, they are there where the water comes from and the rivers stand for that which proceeds out of it. Prophets are and have been engaged in leading men to the true fountain. But here they have been killed. Therefore, it is very appropriate that this third angel that speaks about the fountain also speaks about the prophets.

It is a solemn thing when grace ceases to flow and you have blood instead.

Can we have a comment as to why these three titles of God are used, Lord, God Almighty?

May I put a rider to your question? Why are they given in that order but not the order in which God reveals Himself in the Old Testament?

Certainly these titles remind us that we are handling Old Testament subjects. These are the Names by which God is known in Revelation. Our dear brother very correctly reminded us that, in order, it was Elohim first, then El Shadai, the Almighty, and then Jehovah, the covenant keeping God. So we are obviously on Old Testament ground here, and this is the ground to be taken up by the Remnant in a coming day.

As far as I have been able to trace, the triple combination does not occur in the Old Testament. The nearest is Exodus, chapter 6, verse 3, where you read "I appeared unto Abraham as the Almighty God but by the name Jehovah was not made known". I wondered, it occurs six times in the Revelation and therefore appears to bring together the Old Testament titles in a new combination. The six references are given in the footnote of chapter 1, verse 8 (New Translation).

It is not unique to Revelation to find these two titles brought together. In 2. Corinthians 6, verse 18, we read "And I will receive you; and I will be to you a Father, and ye shall be to Me for sons and daughters, saith [the] Lord Almighty." It does show that practically in separation then we get the gain not only of the Father as we know Him in the New Testament, we get these Old Testament revelations as well.

To us there is one God and Father.

We read in chapter 15, verse 3: "Wonderful are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; righteous and true [are] Thy ways, 0 King of nations"; and then Psalm 103:7 "He made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel." So the acts are connected with the full understanding of God, the Lord God Almighty; in His ways He manifests Himself, for instance, as 'King of nations'.

I think this verse speaks of judgement, in chapter 16. I noticed the very close connection between that last song (15:3) and this verse. The other thing I noticed is there being a heavenly city in chapter 21, verse 22, the temple is not there because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple. It is very striking to me that these Old Testament titles along with the title of the Lamb seem to be right at the centre of the heavenly city.

We have stated that the Names of God mentioned here are 'Old Testament Names', i.e. they describe God as revealed in Old Testament times. This is naturally true, but there is a danger that in this way they will limit them to a particular period. But these are Names of God which He has given to Himself in relation to earthly relationships, but they did not end at a certain point of time. They go on and on as the world exists. It is said in chapter 21 'The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb'. There we see that both of His relationships will be maintained, the names of the tribes of Israel, but also the twelve names of the apostles of the Lamb. So both types of His relationships are maintained, one might suggest, the earthly and the heavenly.

Using another expression, we might say that the revelation of God is always cumulative. The further revelation carries with it all the revelations that have gone before.

Before the flood, God is known as God, Jehovah Elohim, and when He revealed Himself to Abraham He revealed Himself as the Almighty. When He entered into a relationship with Israel, He entered into the relationship as Jehovah. New in Christianity He is Father and when He comes in the Millennium He is the Most High God. In eternity, He is God, Jehovah Elohim. So what you say as to the cumulative aspect of the Revelation of God is quite correct, but is also true that, in a particular situation, God revealed Himself in a particular way, for particular purposes. In previous dispensations the emphasis was in a certain direction. But then you quoted 2. Corinthians 6 where a so-called Old Testament title is used in Christianity. "They shall be to your sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty". So there is the sense in which in Christianity we can embrace everything that has been revealed in any preceding period.

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